Barristers Solicitors Pettifoggers: profiles in Australian colonial legal history. By Simon Smith

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Product Description

Pettifogger: An inferior legal practitioner, especially one who deals with petty cases or employs dubious practices. (OED).

In the two hundred and twenty-five years since 1788, lawyers have carved out a prominent and respected place in the life of Australia.  It has not always been so.  The first lawyers to arrive in 1788 were convicts.  It took a further four decades before ‘free’ trained lawyers began to arrive in the colony.  Even so, the reputation of the profession was poor;  too many lawyers were seen as ‘Pettifoggers’.  It took time for the profession to win community respect; a task that is never finished.  This book canvasses he start of that journey with a focus on the general period 1820-1850.  It explores what brought the early lawyers to Australia, the communities they found and how they fared.  It takes as a particular focus five lawyers who pushed the boundaries and were disciplined as a result.  These previously untold stories provide a fascinating insight into colonial Australia, the development of the legal profession and the rule of law.

Maverick Publications, 2014.

Additional Information

Weight .400 kg
Dimensions 23.5 x 15.0 x 1.5 cm


  1. :

    History News. No. 315 (December 2015), Royal Historical Society of Victoria, p.9:

    In this book, Simon Smith tells a good story about five lawyers who were ‘struck off ’ in the colonial period
before 1851. Horatio Nelson Carrington, Sidney Stephen, James Erskine-Murray, John Thurlow and William
Thurlow all spent some time in legal practice in Melbourne. Their stories tell us much about pioneers in the making of the legal system in settler societies in the transition period from convict colonies to civil societies. They also tell us much about the workings of colonial society and the difficulties faced by professional men confronted by hostile judges; the lives of their families; their contributions outside the practice of the law. Their lives and careers have really never been examined before. They do not rate biographies in the ADB. There is much to commend in the author’s resurrection of these men, usually dismissed as ‘pettifoggers’ and of little consequence.

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